Structural Realism Essay

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The theory of realism is the belief that power, and its balance, are the central driving force of international politics. To realist state actors, it is essential to have a substantial amount of power and to ensure that the balance of power remains in said actors’ favor. Thus, motives and interests of realist actors are deeply rooted in the pursuit of this power. Differences within realism, however, derive from the reasons that states pursue this power. There are classical realists who assert that desire for power is simply a part of human nature, a trait that everyone is born with, and, thus, “great powers are led by individuals who are bent on having their state dominate its rivals.” Conversely, structural realists, also known as neorealists, affirm that this pursuit of power is forced upon actors by the structure of the international political system – a system in which there exists no higher authority than great powers and, thus, no guarantee is provided that one great power will attack another. Therefore, it is in a nation’s best interest to gain as much power as possible in order to survive in the midst of other competing actors. Human nature, government system and cultural differences are irrelevant to structural realists. Instead, all states are assumed to be alike largely due to the fact that the international system influences the same incentives across all great powers. Within structural realism there are two opposing schools of thought, based in the idea of how much power is necessary for a state actor. Defensive realists maintain that, although the pursuit of power is essential, it is not in their best interest to seek too much power, as they will end up worse off. On the other hand, offensive realists believe states should pursue as much power as possible, and circumstantially hegemony, because having the maximum amount of power possible will
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